The Department of Justice is reviewing a criminal investigation of a wind energy farm in Arizona responsible for killing a federally protected golden eagle and an endangered bat.
The 15-turbine Red Horse Wind 2 project caused the deaths of the eagle and a lesser long-nosed bat during the turbine’s first year of operation, a monitoring report prepared for the operator shows. Turbines killed an estimated 2,606 bats at the Red Horse Wind 2 project.
Red Horse Wind’s 15 wind turbines, which stand more than 400 feet tall, also killed an estimated 190 birds — including the eagle — between July 2015 and 2016, the company’s report shows. The actual number of carcasses recovered at the farm that year was much lower than the report indicated: 226 bats and 12 birds.
SWCA Environmental Consultants of Flagstaff, a consultant the company uses, used computer models to make the larger estimates, Todd Fogarty, a spokesman for Red Horse Wind 2, said in a press statement last month.
“It is standard procedure for USFWS to investigate the fatalities of any listed species,” Fogarty said of the company’s relationship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). “All bird and bat fatalities documented at the project are attributed to collision with wind turbines.”
The USFWS will decide in March or April whether to delist the lesser long-nosed bat due to expanding numbers of the bat in Southern Arizona. Environmentalists, meanwhile, are criticizing Red Horse Wind’s review process.
Tice Supplee, an Arizona Audubon official and long-time proponent of enacting tough standards for the pre-construction reviews for the wind farm, called the estimated 2,606 bat deaths a “horribly large number.”
Red Horse Wind’s troubles are not a new phenomenon. Recent studies show wind turbines are killing endangered bats much faster than previously estimated.
The endangered hoary bat populations could decline by 90 percent in the next 50 years as more wind turbines are built, according to a study conducted last year by the University of California. The study’s results suggest building wind turbines poses a substantial threat to migratory bats in North America.
Hoary bats were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1970, and are Hawaii’s only native land mammal. Population estimates of the bats for all islands range from a few hundred to a few thousand, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The FWS and the U.S. Forest Service supported the research.
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